Natalie knows that I am a big baby when it comes to taking criticism, so before she sends me her notes, she calls me. You've totally got this, she says. Don't get nervous when you see the number of comments.
Um, how many comments are we talking?
Pause. Maybe 400?
But most of them are tiny things. And the rest sort of boil down to three slightly bigger issues. But you're totally going to be able to whip it into shape. It will probably take you two, three weeks at the most...
And then she launches into the slightly bigger issues, which honestly sound a tad bigger than she is suggesting. For a few days I am afraid to peek, (also, in my defense, I was out of town. See: Adventures Getting Coffee in Connecticut) but Monday, I take a breath and scroll through.
I have a five stages of death and dying thing going on with my approach to revision. First stage, I deny I have to do anything. The book is good! Exactly how I wrote it! I'm sending it to my agent today!
Second stage. WHAT DOES NATALIE EVEN KNOW? SHE PROBABLY DIDN'T EVEN READ MY BOOK CAREFULLY! SHE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND MY BRILLIANCE! I AM NOT CHANGING A WORD!
Third stage: Okay, what if I just take care of the tiny things she was talking about first?
Fourth stage: This whole book sucks.
I call Natalie. I explain to her that I think my whole book sucks.
Stop being a baby, she tells me, and go back in there.
So I do. Which leads to where I am now with it. After a few days of timid fiddling, I am moving right along. This is the thing about a good critique partner: when they know what they are doing, their comments and suggestions are a guide.
Natalie asks me questions in her comments.
Why would the character do this here?
Wait, who is that person again? You haven't mentioned her in like, fifty pages.
Would the mom really say something like that? It doesn't sound like her.
She leaves smiley faces when she likes something. Adds an occasional LOL. Whenever I read one of these comments, I smile and lol myself.
Moving through the story with these notes scrolling along on the side, something weird begins to happen. I am not alone in my book. I am having a conversation. I argue with some of the points. I give up on others easily. How did I not SEE that? She's exactly right!
I call her and thank her profusely. Oh, shut up, she says, laughing. You do the exact same thing for me.